Baseball: Jeffs Come Back From 5-0 Deficits to Win
By Karan Bains '14, Sports Section Editor
The men’s baseball team has had a quiet fortnight to recover from a busy and strenuous spring break slate of games, playing only two teams in the last two weeks. Co-captain Pat Harris ’11 summed up the team’s trip by calling it “a great learning experience for us.” “We saw that we were able to compete with the best competition in the tourney,” he added, “but also saw some of the things we need to work on.”

The Jeffs took the field at Westfield State on Friday, March 25. Their first contest back on the East coast gave them an opportunity to showcase their improvement. After the Jeffs fell into an early 5-0 hole, they managed to pull out a 7-5 comeback victory.

Amherst played sloppy defense early on, allowing the Owls two unearned runs in the first inning. Two fielding errors set up a sacrifice fly and RBI double for Westfield State, which added to its lead in the second inning with three more runs. The runs were the product of timely hitting on the part of the Owls, including a two-out RBI single that put the Jeffs behind by five.

The Jeffs managed to clean up their play as the game wore on, which could not be said for the Owls. While the Jeffs bounced back from their early errors, Westfield State let its focus drop and allowed the Jeffs to climb back into the game in the fourth inning. The Jeffs scored three runs in the frame on only one hit, as Taiki Kasuga ’14 drew a bases-loaded walk and a Westfield error brought home two more Lord Jeff scores.

The game remained at 5-3 in favor of Westfield until the eighth inning, when the Jeffs tacked on four runs to close the scoring and win the game. Kasuga and Alex Hero ’14 started the inning off with a double and a single, respectively, and the game was tied at five when Mike Samela ’12 produced the key play of the game, cracking a two-RBI double to push the Jeffs ahead for good.

Hero was effective throughout the game, going 3-5 at the plate with an RBI. Scott Shaffer ’11 and Kevin Heller ’11 both added two singles, and Heller reached the 100-hit mark for his collegiate career in the eighth inning. In addition, starting pitcher Max McKenna ’11 found a rhythm after struggling at the outset. McKenna pitched six innings, but went to the dugout with his team losing. Reliever Ryan Healy ’11 held the Owls scoreless for the three remaining innings, giving up only one hit and earning the victory.

After spending time in practice sharpening their focus, the players were ready to open up Memorial Field for the 2011 season. Harris stressed the importance of getting the team healthy by saying, “The long break [allowed] guys to work on specific skills and gave some of the guys time to heal up so they’re ready to go for NESCAC play.”

The home opener, a double header against NESCAC rival Bowdoin on Sunday, demonstrated that the Jeffs were indeed ready to play with intensity. Amherst got off to a slow start once again, falling behind 5-0 in the first game, but charged back with a pair of four-run innings and a six-run eighth inning that wrapped up the 14-7 victory.

The Jeffs continued to build momentum in the second game, finally coming out strong and dominating the Polar Bears throughout. The 8-1 victory was led by a solid effort from starting pitcher Fred Shepard ’14, who threw five shutout innings to get the win. Another first-year, Dylan Driscoll ’14, picked up the win in the first game. Offensively, co-captain Brian Merrigan ’11 destroyed the Bowdoin pitching staff, going 4-7 on the day with four RBIs. Merrigan led a potent Amherst offensive effort that racked up an impressive 13 hits in each of the two games.

The Jeffs were scheduled to continue their homestand against Keene State on Tuesday, but inclement weather intruded and the game was postponed to a later date.

After a good showing in recent games, Amherst will welcome Middlebury College to Memorial Field this weekend for a three-game series. The first game will be played Friday evening, and the teams will face off in a Saturday doubleheader to cap the action. On Tuesday, the Jeffs will hit the road to battle Castleton State, and their performance away from the friendly confines of Memorial Field might prove very useful in determining their early season status.

Issue 21, Submitted 2011-04-09 01:07:54